Nippon Kempo

Nippon Kempo is a Japanese martial art that engages in full-contact bouts using a full range of techniques wearing specially developed protective gear. Developed in 1932 by Muneomi Sawayama the art places an equal emphasis on striking techniques using hands and feet, immobilization and controls, projections and take-downs. Nippon Kempo is a defensive art that does not restrict students in methodology. It has gradually developed through the years and has become widely known and popular – especially in Japan and Europe.

From a technical point of view, Nippon Kempo is a martial art system based on techniques of striking and kicking, (atemi-waza), blocking (uke-waza), throwing (nage-waza), reverse joint locks (kansetsu-gyakutori-waza) and ground combat (wrestling and submission holds). Nippon Kempo uses techniques that are present in other arts like judo, jujutsu, aikido, karate, and wrestling.

The Nippon Kempo practitioners fight and practice these techniques with protective gear. Kempo is a full-contact art, and therefore men (headgear), do (chest protector), kurobu (gloves), and a mate ate (groin protector) are used.

Since protection is used Nippon Kempo considers legal many techniques that cannot be performed in other styles of competitive sparing. Grabbing a kick, a punch, or locking a joint is allowed. Knees and elbows to the body or to the face score points.

Headhunting is a common practice in Nippon Kempo – and for this reason the Nippon Kempo practitioner quickly learns and develops head and body movements to avoid, deflect or counter many punching and kicking combinations. In Japan, Nippon Kempo is practiced in over 100 universities and is part of training with many police forces.

Nippon Kempo is a scientific and practical combat sport. While it is not steeped in the usual martial dogma associated with most traditional martial art forms; it does retain in training, some of the traditional, spiritual and ceremonial aspects of the Japanese martial culture, which aid efficiency in training.

The founder, Sawayama, studied numerous fighting forms and created a system that incorporated whatever was realistic and practical from each. In order to achieve maximum realism with minimum injury, he devised an unique armour, based on that used by Samurai. This armour enables contact sparring with little or no danger of serious injury. It was Sawayama’s belief that contact sparring was a vital constituent in combat training. By experiencing a level of realistic combat, fear can be broken down and confidence and courage built.

The backbone to Sawayama’s system is a series of techniques. By continual drill of these, a student is able to develop mobility, sharp timing, distancing and speed. The name Nippon Kempo does not denote a philosophy of combat. Literally translated from Japanese, it means – Japanese way of the Fist.

Nippon Kempo is a competitive combat sport founded in 1932 in Japan by Muneumi Sawayama. He was an undergraduate of Kansai University, Osaka at the time. Sawayama was born into a family that was descended from a Samurai family of the Nakaoka clan. Sawayama’s martial arts training started with Judo at Junior High School. At Kansai University he practised both Karate and Judo. It was the simultaneous practice of various styles of martial arts that inspired him to realise the effectiveness of a combination of forms. Until he passed away on 27th September 1977, at the age of 72, he dedicated his life to developing the combination of techniques, which we know today as Nippon Kempo, and the compilation of the Nippon Kempo handbook.

Nippon Kempo is not a traditional Japanese martial art but a combat sport based on traditional Japanese martial arts. Traditional Japanese martial arts such as Karate were not devised as sports but killing arts. Their origins and nature mean they are not wholly suitable to be practiced as sports without corrupting their authenticity. Sawayama realising this, set about creating a safe realistic sport incorporating all the most practical and effective aspects and techniques of the traditional martial arts. Similar kicking techniques to Karate, Judo type throws, evasion and arm locks from Ju Jitsu and Aikido, can all be found at the core of Nippon Kempo training.

Nippon Kempo’s uniqueness lies in its use of protective armour. This is fashioned after Samurai style armour and consists of a helmet, breastplate, padded vest, groin protector and gloves. Although protective armour is worn, in training the object is not excessive or uncontrolled contact. There is a distinct difference between putting on armour and brawl/flawing manically and Nippon Kempo sparring. The object of Nippon Kempo armoured contact sparring is to score points using a recognised Nippon Kempo technique. The emphasis is on winning by skill and technique not knockout or knockdown. The object of the armour is to allow realistic sparring without the risk of serious injury or disfigurement.